The 2007 Washington Legislature directed the Institute to estimate whether “evidence-based” programs and policies can “reduce the likelihood of children entering and remaining in the child welfare system, including both prevention and intervention programs.” In this report, we study three basic questions: Is there evidence that specific programs “work” to improve these outcomes? If so, do benefits outweigh program costs? Finally, what would be the total net gain to Washington if these evidence-based programs were implemented more widely?
To answer these questions, we systematically reviewed the “what works” literature regarding programs and policies that affect child welfare outcomes. We then estimated the monetary value of the benefits, including factors such as reduced child welfare system expenditures, reduced costs to the victims of child maltreatment, improved educational and labor market performance, and reduced crime-related costs.